English Torts and Roman Delicts: The Correspondence of James Muirhead and Frederick Pollock

The revival of the study of Roman law in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century was a complex development not yet fully understood.  It is evident that awareness of German scholarship in Roman law, both systematic and historical, and the development of curricula in the universities were crucial in this revival, which also influenced the writing of treatises on the common law. This Article focuses on the publication of Erwin Grueber’s textbook on the Lex Aquilia intended for use by students in Oxford.  It places it in context and explores the reaction to it of James Muirhead, Professor of Civil Law in Edinburgh, and Grueber’s Oxford colleague, Sir Frederick Pollock.  Pollock admired Muirhead as a scholar of Roman law and corresponded with him about Grueber’s book, which he also asked Muirhead to review for the Law Quarterly Review.  This was one year before Pollock published his work on torts, in which he cited Grueber.  Muirhead’s response to Pollock throws light on contemporary scholarship.

This Article finally raises questions about our understanding of the development of the study of Roman law in late-Victorian Britain.